Just being in the room with a Beatle was enough to keep everybody blissful throughout the two-hour, mostly non-Beatle set delivered by Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band at Warner Theatre on Friday.
The 50th anniversary of his last show with the Beatles is coming up this summer. (One of the last Beatles concerts was held, in fact, at D.C. Stadium, later renamed RFK Stadium, on Aug. 15, 1966.) Starr rarely played live for about two decades after the Beatles’ breakup, but he has been doing these cavalcade tours since the late 1980s. Folks by now know the routine, which is basically hearing a short burst of Beatles classics and Starr’s early and beloved solo material — he was the most successful ex-Beatle as a solo act — then sitting through highlights from the careers of whatever mortals are playing alongside him while waiting for the next dose of Ringo.
Starr, 75, looked happy as ever and in fine health while either dancing like a youngster at the front of the stage or showing that he still swings when sitting behind the drum kit. He wore a T-shirt with a sequined peace sign, shouted, “Peace and love!” and flashed a lot of peace signs to the crowd, along with an occasional “Hare Krishna!” His voice was not always where he wanted it to be, especially early in the show, during “Matchbox,” “It Don’t Come Easy” and “What Goes On.” But the vocals came around as he warmed up.
And he never had to sing too hard.
“If you don’t know the words to this song, you’re in the wrong building,” he said before playing “Yellow Submarine.” Everybody knew the words, and the crowd let Ringo know it by screaming along.
Todd Rundgren opened the others’-covers portion of the show with “I Saw the Light,” from 1972’s “Something/Anything?,” one of the great rock LPs of all time. The song has a fine place in Beatles lore, because it was part of a famous rock-and-roll feud that began when newcomer Rundgren called Lennon a fake revolutionary and an “[expletive] idiot” in the pages of Melody Maker, a top music magazine of the time. Lennon responded with an open letter full of his own name-calling, including “Turd Runtgreen,” but the smart Beatle also told the young upstart that he quite liked some of his music, namely “I Saw the Light.” Lennon, though, added that he saw the tune as “not unlike ‘There’s a Place,’ ” an early Beatles number.
Keyboardist Gregg Rolie contributed “Evil Ways,” a song he had played alongside Santana at Woodstock, and he later led jams on “Black Magic Woman” and “Oye Como Va.” Rolie was also a founding member of Journey but ignored that band’s catalogue on this night. The rest of the All Starrs’ non-Ringo set list, though, read like that of a wimpy wedding band from the 1980s. Bassist Richard Page, of Mr. Mister, took the lead on “Kyrie” and “Broken Wings.” Guitarist Steve Lukather, from Toto, led the All Starrs through “Africa,” “Hold the Line” and “Rosanna,” the last a 1982 tribute to then-feature-film star Rosanna Arquette.
In the end, fewer than half of the tunes in the 24-song set were Beatles or Starr tracks. But the fans more than tolerated the soft-rock offerings. And when Starr ended the night with “A Little Help From My Friends,” a lot of folks had tears in their eyes, but not because the guy who gave the backbeat to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band had spent the evening also keeping time for Mr. Mister meanderings.